I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of… the California Commonwealth?
As someone who watches national news quite a bit and closely follows politics, it is easy to get a little nervous, or at least disheartened, by the current state of affairs in America. To say that bi-partisanship is at an all time low would be an understatement – unless of course you think back to the 1860’s. Pop Top Software, known for quirky strategy games like Tropico or the Railroad Tycoon Series, has let their mind drift to just such a time and built a game around a disturbing future – a second American Civil War.
The opening cinematic of the game tells of a time not long in the future where dubious election results lead to the inauguration of “the most unpopular President in U.S. history”, David Jefferson Adams. Questionable Supreme Court decisions keep the man in office and cause widespread dissent giving him the excuse to declare marshal law and create a Homeland Security law. It’s a surprisingly polarizing and incredibly unsubtle repackaging of current events, at least one side’s version of them, that could potentially put off gamers in the country’s red states. But not to worry, during Pres. Adams next inauguration, Washington D.C. is leveled by a nuclear explosion. With no federal leadership, regions begin splitting off from the Union to form their own governments, and the different playable factions within the game. It is an amazing beginning to one of Shattered Union’s weakest elements – the story. However captivated you may be by the premise, the near absence of any meaningful continuation of it during the rest of the game will have you scratching your head, even if you don’t like Pop Top’s commentary about the current situation.
If you do choose to pay attention to what little of a plot there is, you may find out that the unrest in the U.S. convinces the European Union to send in peace keepers to secure its own interests and the Soviet Union decides to annex Alaska. All together there are seven different factions you can choose from each with stereotypical strengths, weaknesses and motivations. For instance, the game says of the Republic of Texas, “Though regarded as beer swilling cowboys, and gun toting rabble, Texans are also known to live by no-nonsense rules and take a dim view of traitors and bureaucrats. Texans are ferociously independent and live just one step away from anarchy.” If you live in another region of the country and are feeling left out, don’t. Other regions are painted with just as broad a brush. For example, citizens of the California Commonwealth are “shallow, but have an eye for color”, and those from the Great Plains Federation are “conservative dirt farmers.” If you think I am making this up, you just might be from the region of Pacifica (the Northwest) and be one of the “tree hugging technophiles with a weak grasp of reality.”